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Review: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

The journey back to Wakanda is well worth it.

As my review for Black Panther (2018) will tell you – check it out, here – I have nothing but glowing love and admiration for that sensational movie. In every way imaginable, the movie is an overwhelming success. Naturally, a sequel was inevitable (especially because it’s part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) and fans like me have been waiting four years for the next adventure in Wakanda. Writer / director Ryan Coogler set an impossibly high bar for himself when it came to putting together Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), made all the more difficult by the tragic passing of star Chadwick Boseman. While Coogler crafts an outstanding sequel that delivers as much exhilaration and vibrancy as the original, I couldn’t help but be less blown away this time around. Don’t get me wrong, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is great! But when compared to the first movie, there’s only one that I want to watch on repeat. 

Credit: imdb.com / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever follows the heroes of Wakanda as they mourn the death of King T’Challa, the Black Panther. Amidst their grief the heroes must protect their home from outside forces who would wish to destroy Wakanda, including Namor, the leader of the undersea nation of Talokan.

The question that is undoubtedly on everyone’s lips going into Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is, “how is this sequel going to work without Boseman, not only the face of the franchise but the emotional anchor of the first movie?” Though Boseman as T’Challa is greatly missed, it can’t be stated enough how much his essence is felt throughout this movie and how much Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a moving emotional tribute to both the character and the actor. It’s heartbreaking to think about how much of the grieving the characters go through is drawn from real experience. The movie literally starts with the death of T’Challa, a smart way to address Boseman’s absence while setting up an emotional narrative that will be the heartbeat of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. But thankfully, the returning cast are all as equally exceptional the second time around, ensuring that there’s enough talent and charisma to compensate for the absence of the main character. Everyone from Shuri to Queen Ramonda are so cool and well developed that from a narrative stand point, there’s nothing to worry about considering the loss of T’Challa. Coogler manages to include just as much action and excitement as Black Panther, shared among the group of enjoyable characters now given more screen time.

That being said, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is considerably less joyful than its predecessor for reasons outside Coogler’s control. A cloud of grief hangs over the whole movie covering even the few instances of playfulness in shadows. This movie was excellent but I’ll be honest you guys…it’s not a very fun movie to watch. There are FOUR scenes of burials. In the writing, the performances and even the cinematography, you can tell how much more solemn and heavy this movie is compared to the first. The best comparison I can make regarding the two movies is that tonally, it feels like Batman Returns (1992) vs Batman Begins (2005). Both are excellent, but one is considerably more grim and morose than its playful predecessor. One I want to rewatch again and again, and another I only want to revisit if I were doing a movie marathon. Again, this movie was good, but it’s not as enjoyable or carefree as the first movie. 

What I love and appreciate about the first movie is the self-contained story and lack of involvement with all the other shenanigans happening in the MCU. Before going into this sequel I knew that wasn’t going to be the case this time around. There have been 11 movies and eight TV series since Black Panther came out and I have seen three of them. Thankfully there aren’t an overwhelming amount of connections to these past movies and series but still, there were times where I was completely clueless. Apparently Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been in some of these movies before? Well Hell, I would have watched those ones! 

The plot is less straightforward than the first movie and slightly less memorable. I hate to say it but more than anything, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever exists to set up Namor as a major player in the MCU as well as the upcoming Disney+ show Ironheart. Did we really need a precocious teen shoved into this movie just so you’d be more inclined to watch a TV show? Dominique Thorne is great and the character of Riri could have been an interesting addition but her inclusion feels a little disingenuous. You could have shaved a solid 15-20 minutes off this movie’s steep nearly three hour runtime and had a tighter movie that focused more closely on its core characters. This and the the fact that the movie divulges into a bloated CGI wasteland confirm that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ends up doing the most disappointing thing possible: it becomes a Marvel movie. 

However, what has remained as stunningly jaw-dropping as ever is the incredible production and costume design. THE COSTUMES! THE MAKEUP! THE WORLD BUILDING! The artistry of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is on a whole other level and spending time in this visually dazzling world is guaranteed to take your breath away. Especially because this movie introduces fans to the undersea nation of Talokan, a setting whose world and characters are as immaculate and creative as Wakanda itself. I was enthralled by Talokan but I couldn’t help but feel I’d seen a a lot of these designs and ideas already in Aquaman (2018). By the way, check out my review for that movie, here.

Speaking of aquatic men, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever introduces Tenoch Huerta as Namor, the actor’s debut in the American movie industry. Huerta is phenomenal. He has an air of imposing power about him that coupled with his sympathetic motives, make him one of the most compelling characters I’ve seen in this universe in a while. Very excited to see him in future projects, Marvel-related or not. The retuning cast is just as amazing, giving performances that are as powerful as ever. Maybe even more so considering the emotional weight of this sequel. Danai Gurira continues to be an intoxicating mix of fierce and funny as Okoye and thank God my prayers of having more Angela Bassett in this movie were answered! Letitia Wright delivers a grounding, sensational performance as Shui, carrying the movie with oodles of heart and moxie. Wright has the talent, charisma and range to lead this franchise, undoubtedly keeping Boseman’s spirit alive.

All in all, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is fantastic. I don’t think it’s AS enjoyable or thrilling as the first movie but that doesn’t change how imaginative, beautiful and rousing it is. More than anything though, the movie is a gorgeous tribute to Boseman and a love letter to all the fans who were inspired by his memorable performance. If you at all enjoyed the first Black Panther there is more than enough of the same awesomeness in this well-made if not somber, sequel. Definitely go see it! Just be prepared to cry. Rest assured though that in between those tears you’re going to find yourself valiantly declaring, “Wakanda Forever.”

Will you see Black Panther: Wakanda Forever? What are you favourite movies in the MCU?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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